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Environmental Groups Warn Drilling Will Hurt Bay

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Environmentalists warn that offshore drilling threatens the Chesapeake Bay.
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Environmentalists warn that offshore drilling threatens the Chesapeake Bay.

By Sabri Ben-Achour

Virginia governor Bob McDonnell is welcoming President Obama's decision to allow offshore drilling for oil and gas. He says it will create thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue. But environmental groups are warning of threats to the Chesapeake Bay.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says drilling offshore will mean oil infrastructure onshore.

"There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the pressure to put oil refineries into the bay will be huge," says Baker.

And with refineries come pipes and trucks and barges all full of oil - and opportunities for spills. Baker says they could add up.

"There's potential for catastrophe but it's much more about introducing a constant stream of small, sub-lethal amounts of oil to the system which science has clearly said is not compatible with life in the Chesapeake Bay," he says.

Jerry Grantham, president of the Virginia Oil and Gas Association, takes a different view.

"Really the technology has increased significantly, that those types of issues are generally just not a problem. And a lot of those areas in the Gulf of Mexico have become habitats for sea-life," says Grantham.

Environmentalists though point to a major oil spill from a new drilling rig off the coast of Australia last year, which leaked 9 million gallons of oil into the ocean.

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